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Nichols, Melburg, & Rossetto—Architects + Engineers

01/25/2017 11:00AM ● By Jordan Venema

Building Community

February 2017
By Jordan Venema
Renderings courtesy of Nichols, Melburg, & Rossetto

A city is made  of much more than brick and stone, and its buildings are only empty edifices without people to enjoy them. Still, a city is in part the sum of its buildings – these creative and practical structures that help define a neighborhood, community, even a culture.

Any practiced architect knows how to design a building, but a great architect knows that his responsibility belongs not just to his clients but also to the greater community in which a project will be built. Redding architectural firm Nichols, Melburg, & Rossetto has built a reputation for gathering such architects, and a hallmark of that success is the firm’s longevity. This year NMR celebrates its 50th anniversary.

Gene Nichols founded NMR in 1967, later inviting architect Les Melburg to become a partner, and then rounding out the NMR trio by inviting Dan Rossetto to become a partner in 1985.

“We started Nichols and Melburg with about ten or eleven people,” says Melburg, “and later we invited Dan Rossetto. He had a specialty practice that we didn’t cover – educational architecture.”

Despite the practice’s small beginnings, NMR has grown to nearly 70 employees, and expanded to offices in Chico and Santa Rosa, as well as Redding. As the largest architectural firm in Northern California north of Sacramento, NMR has played a large and broad role in designing civic, educational, and healthcare structures, as well as commercial and custom residential projects throughout Redding.

“We’re lucky to be involved in most of the significant projects in Redding,” says Melburg. “So we’ve helped shape the town, I think, in a good way. We’re trying to do things to make the town proud.”

That effort requires on NMR’s part an understanding of the community in which it belongs, and Melburg agrees. “Architecture should be largely contextual. You want to be sensitive to the surroundings,” he says. And while designing buildings is the beginning of any architectural firm, according to Melburg it shouldn’t be the end.

“Every business has to be something more than go to work every day, do your job and go home. We encourage our staff to be a part of the community, because these are the people that we work for and with, so let’s support them,” he says.

“We donate back to the community something to the order of $50,000 a year to various causes, and we try to be low key about it. Part of our philosophy is to give quietly and meaningfully,” he adds.

While NMR doesn’t go out of  its way to broadcast its contributions to the community, it has offered support to YMCA and Shasta Symphony, “as well as organizations that help the underprivileged, like People of Progress Home and the Good News Rescue Mission,” says Melburg. “My personal favorite, because I have a soft spot for animals, is the Haven Humane Society.”

Ultimately, says Melburg, “to understand how to develop the community, that means participating in the community.”

That NMR can even celebrate its 50th anniversary is evidence that the firm hasn’t just helped shape the community, but also become a part of it.

“Frankly any business that lasts 50 years anymore is somewhat significant,” Melburg muses, “and especially in a profession like architecture where people tend not to stay in the same place very long. It’s the just nature of people who become architects. They move around a lot. Or change firms a lot.”

But Redding, says Melburg, is a special place, and has perhaps attracted a special kind of people to the firm. Many of NMR’s employees have long been invested in Redding personally, while working for the firm for as many as 25 years.

“The longevity of our employees,” says Melburg, “gives a certain stability, and the clientele know who they are getting, but there’s already a new generation of partners in the firm,” about which Melburg is equally excited.

That’s the future, he says, and especially “the proliferation of excellent young, female architects.” Currently the staff at NMR is nearly 50 percent women. “That’s something that I never could have projected. We look for great talent wherever we can find it, and the future is how we develop the young people to be great architects. We’re certainly thinking we could last another 50 the way it’s going.”

Nichols, Melburg, & Rossetto Architects + Engineers

300 Knollcrest Drive, Redding •